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Customs checks on imports to hit key COVID-19 drug, devices supply

The delay in clearance of consignments for manufacturing APIs and formulations for life-saving drugs meant for COVID-19 treatment is going to impact the healthcare delivery in these challenging times

July 01, 2020 / 08:03 PM IST

Delays in clearing import consignments of crucial raw materials at ports and airports will impact the production of key COVID-19 drugs -- remdesivir and favipiravir -- and other life-saving medicines, which is critical in the present scenario, The Times of India has reported.

Also, medical equipment such as infrared thermometers and pulse oximeters needed in the fight against COVID-19, among other critical medical devices, are stuck at the ports, said the report, adding that this may result in shortages soon.

Currently, critical raw material and bulk drugs are imported from China, with the country accounting for nearly 70 percent of API (active pharmaceutical imports), while in certain cases like antibiotics, the dependence is around 90 percent, the report suggested.

The delay in clearance of consignments for manufacturing APIs and formulations for life-saving drugs meant for COVID-19 treatment is going to impact the healthcare delivery in these challenging times, said the report quoting a company manufacturing COVID-19 drugs.

According to Mylan, one of the six manufacturers of Remdesivir, said the delay and hold up of raw materials will impact the availability of drugs, said the report. Remdesivir has been granted the “emergency use” approval by the US Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of severely-ill COVID-19 patients.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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Also read | Government bans 59 Chinese apps including TikTok

The delay, which started a fortnight back, is even as the health ministry and Pharmaceutical Export Promotion Council (Pharmexcil) have sought early clearance of consignments, the report said. Faced with an “acute disruption”, the industry body sought urgent intervention from the government. It has sought instructions to customs authorities for immediate clearance of the supplies at ports and airports, particularly Nhava Sheva port (Maharashtra) and Delhi Airport, it said.

“We have been inundated with distress calls from a lot of our member companies that there has been an acute disruption in manufacturing of pharmaceutical products over the last three days,” said the report citing Pharmexcil’s letter to various government departments.

Pharmexcil chairman Dinesh Dua also told the publication that there would be disruption in supply as there is “near-total dependence on China for key raw materials used in making antibiotics, cardiovascular, respiratory and diabetes medicines.”
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first published: Jun 30, 2020 01:10 pm
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